There were 7,265 unique cases of occupational illnesses reported to either the Workers’ Compensation Commission or the Department of Public Health in 2011 based on a study by the UConn Health Center prepared for the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission. This is in addition to cases of traumatic occupational injury reported by the Connecticut Labor Department in its annual survey.
The overall 2011 rate of occupational illness in Connecticut is 27.8 illnesses per 10,000 workers, 35 percent higher than the national average, based on the standardized survey compiled by the Connecticut Labor Department. Both numbers of illnesses and rates of illnesses increased over 2010 for all three data sources for the report, although one of those sources was incomplete for the earlier year.
Occupational Disease in Connecticut, prepared for the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission by occupational and environmental expert Tim Morse of the Health Center, reviewed information for the 2011 reporting year from three sources: the State Labor Department/Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) survey; the Reports of First Injury to the Connecticut Workers Compensation Commission; and the physicians reports to the Connecticut Department of Public Health under the Occupational Illnesses and Injury Surveillance System.
“These increasing numbers are a call for more attention to prevention of these serious chronic conditions. Although you might expect that both numbers and rates of occupational illnesses to increase as business picks up, employment was actually somewhat lower in 2011 than in 2010,” says Morse. “Workplace programs such as ergonomics or the use of safer chemicals can produce returns for employers both in decreased illness and higher productivity.”
“The Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission is committed to assisting employers and employees in an effort to prevent occupational injuries and illnesses. The Commission hopes that employers and employees utilize the information in this report to help to reduce the number of injuries that require adjudication before the Commission,” according to Chairman John Mastropietro. “Prevention first is always better than compensation later.”
For most industrial sectors the majority of cases are attributed to musculoskeletal disorders. Manufacturing had the highest rates of the larger industrial sector (agriculture and natural resources was higher, but is a very small sector in terms of employment), followed by government and the health/education sectors.
The report is part of the Occupational Disease Surveillance System, a cooperative effort between the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission, the Connecticut Department of Public Health, the Connecticut Labor Department, the academic occupational health programs at the UConn Health Center and Yale University, and other state occupational health clinics. The system is designed to trace and prevent occupational disease. The report includes a “Who’s Who” of contact information for agencies and programs in occupational health and safety in Connecticut, as well as a list of useful websites nationally.
A free copy of the “Occupational Disease in Connecticut, 2013” report that reflects data for 2011, 2010 and 2009 is available at http://www.oehc.uchc.edu/news.asp, or by calling the Workers’ Compensation Commission at 860-493-1500 or Paula Schenck at the UConn Health Center at 860-679-2368.